Throughout April, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (UHPP) will be collaborating with local student groups in the national GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign, as part of national STD Awareness Month. This year GYT launched new initiatives on-air, online, and on the ground at college campuses and in more than 5,000 health centers across the nation. GYT is a national campaign supported by a broad coalition of partners, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, designed to address the high rates of STDs among those under 25.
A variety of local events are planned for the local GYT campaign. At UHPP health centers, staff are wearing GYT t-shirts and buttons, and fact sheets promoting STI testing are featured in waiting areas and on the agency web site.
The UAlbany student VOX organization is staffing information tables around campus and holding a "sex games night" that will include trivia contests, condom races and other games designed to get students talking about the importance of safer sex while having fun. RPI VOX has planned a local "pub crawl" featuring a "Fact or Crap" trivia game and is also doing campus tabling.
"Many students have misconceptions about getting tested, and we want to inform them that getting tested is easy and important," said Brittni Gulotty president of UAlbany VOX. "Many people have STI's and don't even know it. Some STIs do not have obvious or constant symptoms. We're showing students that if you are sexually active, then getting tested is simply a basic part of staying healthy."
GYT public service messages air throughout the year on MTV channels with cross promotions with health centers and community organizations. Extensive information resources - including a dedicated website (www.GYTnow.org), which provides basic information about common STDs, talking tips, and a zip code locator to find local testing locations - as well as a mobile testing locator, GYTNOW (498669) - provide the audience with more information. During April, the campaign scales up its presence by introducing new messaging and outreach. Some elements of this year's national GYT campaign include:
• "Team GYT" - "Team GYT" is made up of celebrities recognizable to the GYT audience who help carry the GYT message. Coming from an array of backgrounds, these celebrities are handpicked to offer a sense of inspiration and personal empowerment. This year, Team GYT is pleased to welcome Litefoot, a Native American rap artist, actor and entrepreneur. Litefoot, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, also operates the "Reach the Rez Tour," an outreach program that promotes positive change among American Indian youth. Litefoot joins the ranks of the existing members of Team GYT including: The Jersey Shore's Vinny, rap visionary Talib Kweli, celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, America's Best Dance Crew's Jungle Boogie, professional street skateboarder Stevie Williams, head of Thehundreds.com Bobby Hundreds, Paper Twins' artists Nica and Edgar A. English, aspiring fashion-conscious entrepreneur Allie Bashuk, surf-loving San Franpsycho, San Francisco designer/painter/artist Ube Urban, Levi Maestro of the online show Maestro Knows, Buff Monster, designer Han Cholo, and DJ A-Trak. Team GYT will continue to grow throughout the year as new faces are added to the campaign. All will carry the GYT brand out into various aspects of youth culture, encouraging their fans and followers to know their status.
• GYT "Party" - GYT has created a new online interactive video experience to encourage conversations about STDs and testing with partners, peers, and health care providers. The video, a simulated party scene, includes five conversations among couples, peers and friends about STDs and testing and is found at http://www.itsyoursexlife.com/gyt/talk/party. The GYT Party is filled with talking tips, an interactive quiz, key information for starting a conversation and entertaining "extra" features.
• GYT Nation - GYT is also supported by an extensive on-the-ground outreach effort taking GYT to communities across the country. GYT promotional and informational materials, including T-shirts, posters, buttons, brochures and stickers are being distributed to more than 5,000 health centers and organizations nationwide, including Planned Parenthood's network of nearly 800 health centers and additional public and private clinics identified by the CDC. GYT is also working with state and local health departments, the National Coalition of STD Directors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and the National Assembly of School-Based Health Centers to provide young people with information about the campaign. And, the American College Health Association (ACHA) works with GYT to distribute materials through college health centers.
As many as one in two sexually active young people will contract an STD by age 25 - and most won't know it . GYT encourages young people to talk with health care providers and partners about getting tested for STDs. According to the CDC, approximately half of the estimated 19 million STDs occurring in the United States each year are among people 25 and younger. When left untreated, STDs can increase the risk of HIV infection, infertility and cancer.
During last year's GYT campaign, Planned Parenthood health centers tested almost 125,000 men and women in April, and Planned Parenthood affiliates held 240 events with 1,250 youth volunteers, reaching 67,000 people. Data collected from 10 Planned Parenthood affiliates show that STD testing has increased significantly during the month of April since the launch of GYT in 2009. Among the 10 affiliates, there was a 51 percent increase in patients getting tested in April 2011, as compared to the same time in 2008, prior to the launch of the campaign - indicating that the campaign helped drive an increase in STD tests. Nationally, Planned Parenthood achieved especially large increases in the patients from populations most affected by STDs, including African Americans and people living at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate. We believe that everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. Planned Parenthood affiliates operate nearly 800 health centers nationwide, providing medical services and sexuality education for millions of women, men, and teenagers each year. We also work with allies worldwide to ensure that all women and men have the right and the means to meet their sexual and reproductive health care needs.
GYT launched in 2009 as an extension of a longstanding public information partnership between MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation. It is supported by a broad range of organizations including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), American College Health Association (ACHA), American Social Health Association (ASHA), the National Chlamydia Coalition (NCC), the CDC, and various state and local health departments, colleges and universities, and other community groups and non-profits. Gilead Sciences, Inc. provides support and resources for select elements of the campaign. CDC provided assistance to ensure scientific accuracy of GYT health information. Comprehensive informational resources - designed for Web and mobile applications - provide facts and referrals to local health centers. For more information visit www.GYTNOW.org.
Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood is a community-based non-profit organization providing advocacy, education and reproductive health care services in the capital region since 1934. Our service area includes Albany, Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer Counties. In 2011, the agency provided health care services to 15,365 men, women and youth who made over 22,000 visits to our health centers located in Albany, Troy and Hudson. A total of 10,283 STI tests were performed and over 2,000 HIV screenings. Health services provided include GYN exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control information and supplies including Emergency Contraception, pregnancy testing and options counseling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing and counseling, the HPV vaccine, first trimester abortions, and prenatal and adoption referrals. Sixty-six percent of UHPP patient have incomes at or below the federal poverty level. UHPP community educators also provided 652 programs to 5,000 participants.